The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 8:28-9:1
We are told that the Lord Jesus came to the country of the Gergesenes, in some of the gospels we also find this region called the country of the Geresenes. It is amazing to think that the Lord Jesus would make His way to this area because it was well known that this area was not full of Jews, but gentiles. That is why we see pig farmers in the region. It is considered unclean and unlawful for any Jew to eat pork or even shrimp or various other shellfish so no Jew would tend such animals on the farm.
So it’s really amazing that the Lord came to this region at all and we are given this special glimpse into the heart of the savior. He is coming specifically to heal these men of their sickness and their sickness is demonic possession. This topic of demonic possession is not a popular one in most places. Even while in seminary there was very little talk of such matters. This is probably because it is an uncomfortable subject and probably because we as modern people in a modern society have a hard time believing in such things. With the advent of modern medicine and modern psychology we believe that we are fully capable of dealing with anything that comes our way. This is a sign of human pride.
Listen to these words by the well-known author C.S. Lewis “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” So according to Lewis, a convert from atheism and a brilliant man, if you don’t believe in demons or if you do believe in them and have an unhealthy attraction toward them, either way the demons win. Why do they win? Because the goal of demons is to keep people from focusing on Jesus Christ, from loving God. This is much easier than ever during our day and age when you can have your eyes glued to a TV or a computer or a phone literally every hour of the day!
All of the information we take in through our senses has consequences or benefits. Here is an example: The benefits of watching the weather report on the local news is that it will give you the opportunity to prepare for the weather accordingly. That might mean bringing an umbrella or wearing a sweater or applying sunscreen depending on the day. But information can also have consequences. In 1 Corinthians 15 we are reminded that “Bad company corrupts good morals”. If this is true when we are with badly behaved, immoral people, it is also true when we spend time taking in information from scandalizing books or violent or sexually explicit material. All of this has an effect and can help separate people from the love of God in Christ, which is the goal of the demons in the first place! The battle is like any other battle. It is a brutal fight for power, resources and real estate.
There is a fight for power, who will have authority over you and guide you. There is a fight for resources, who will you serve with your gifts and talents. There is a fight for real estate, who will live and reign in your heart. This battle is happening every single minute of every day and that is why St. Paul urges his people to pray without ceasing. This is also why St. Peter in his first epistle writes “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Now if you ever watch your nature programs you know that the lion might be big and bad, but he never goes after the strongest or fastest antelope. He prowls slowly looking for the young, the weak, and the sick.
Those words aren’t meant to scare us, they are meant to inform us of an unseen reality. According to the Lord Jesus, demons were a real possibility. Many of the Church Fathers spoke of possession and many modern elders and saints mention it as well. None of that has changed with the times because these are spiritual truths and realities and they are not subject to scientific examination in a test tube in a lab. Labs and experiments are for material and physical observations, the Church is the place for spiritual observation.
We see the physician of souls Jesus Christ and His great love for those who are in desperation and affliction. The Lord is going straight to the place that everyone else had been actively working to avoid. He is courageous and faithful beyond our understanding. The Lord goes straight to the tombs where these two demon possessed men live and with one word He heals them straightaway… “GO.” This is the power that He has over demons and the love He has for mankind. With a word He removes the offending demons and with that same word He liberates the two men and makes them whole.
Our God gives this liberation and freedom from the demonic influences to all His children. Don’t make yourself a slave when the Lord has made you free. Christ out of His love for us has given us freedom as His children. It is our choice to exercise this freedom we have in Christ or to choose to be slaves to the world around us. Practically speaking, the best way to exercise this freedom is to apply yourself daily to the goal of knowing Jesus Christ and imitating Him. St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians tells us not to use this freedom “as an opportunity for the flesh but rather to serve one another through love.” This is how God wins the battle for power, resources and real estate….by giving us the freedom to serve one another, care for one another, feed and clothe one another, encourage and support one another and most of all to love one another.
May we allow Jesus Christ to truly be the Lord and master of our lives to the glory of God forever, AMEN.